Why the 2031 Journey to Venus Could Make You Shiver

Prepare for a voyage to Venus in 2031, as the European Space Agency's (ESA) EnVision mission sets its sights on exploring our inhospitable neighboring planet.

The objective of this ambitious endeavor is to delve into the internal workings of Venus. The research areas will spread from studying the planet's internal processes, investigating its volcanic phenomena, to mapping surface formations and investigating what lurks beneath.

The EnVision mission has been in the planning stages for the past two years. During this time, project teams have been meticulously shaping the roles of various agencies and defining the specific functions of each instrument. Following the ESA's stamp of approval, the stage is now set for industrial entities to compete for the chance to construct and thoroughly test the new orbiter.

EnVision will employ a precise aero braking method to decelerate, capitalizing on the dense Venusian atmosphere. This approach is something the ESA is no stranger to, having previously utilized it in the Venus Express mission.

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The central query of the mission is to understand the timeline and factors that led to Venus' extreme and hostile environment. The planet is renowned for its scorching average surface temperature of 464°C, weighty atmosphere (90 bars), and clouds densely loaded with sulfuric acid.

Instruments Onboard

The orbiter is set to carry a variety of significant instruments on its journey. These tools include:

  • VenSpec spectrometers, purposed for analyzing rocks and volcanic formations.
  • An advanced synthetic aperture radar (VenSar) from , designed for detailed surface mapping.
  • The Italian-made sub-surface radar instrument (SRS) for observations beneath the surface.
  • A gravity experiment to measure variations in radio data exchanges with Earth, providing insights into Venus' deep internal structure and core.

Tipping the scales at over 2.6 tonnes, the mission is a significant collaborative project with NASA. The cooperation also extends to data exchanges with NASA's future vehicles, which are currently planning two additional missions to Venus, DAVINCI and VERITAS. There is some conjecture, however, that budgetary restrictions may force NASA to abandon one of these missions.

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